Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death. – Review

Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death. – Review – book review

Tony Williams

Frayling, Christopher. Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. $20.00. According to the author, this work began as a critical study of Leone’s films before changing into a biography. Despite furnishing some revealing material about the director, the entire work is little better than a scissors-and-paste production compiled from previously well-known books which the publishers should have considered translating into English in the first place. Judging by the extensive footnotes, much of the material reproduced in this book was already available in works on Leone by authors such as Noel Simsolo, Gilles Lambert, and Orneste de Fornari.

Frayling does provide some interesting perspectives on the director, seeing the influences of the commedia del’arte, the picaresque tradition, puppet theater, and European and Hollywood cinema on Leone’s films. He has also interviewed many of Leone’s family and collaborators. But the book is in dire need of a much better technical, visual, and sound analysis of the films themselves. Several questions emerge. Although Leone disparaged the operatic label applied to his work by Clint Eastwood and others, Frayling never examines how this motif can be usefully applied to his work, nor does he follow up Fulvio Morsella’s comment concerning the medium’s influence on the director (487). On many occasions, Frayling dutifully follows Leone’s dismissal of other Italian Westerns (not all of them being as bad as he states). But he also paints a disturbing image of a director who was at times extremely callous (294) and refused credit to other contributors. Several errors mar the book, and the selective bibliography lacks any mention of previous critical work on the director. Frayling’s book also raises many critical problems concerning methodology, problems which need further elucidation. It is, at best, valuable as a first step toward the appearance of more detailed and scholarly texts on the director.

Tony Williams teaches in the English Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

COPYRIGHT 2001 University of California Press

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group